Death of the Bench Press

By Susan Howard

Tips from a trainer

Back in the olden days Bros would go to the gym with a single goal, to get HUGE. The crown jewel of dudeness was the amount you can press. Football players, body guards and regular Joes where all trying to increase the one rep max of their press. What happen to the press and why is what we are going to look at in this article.

The bench press is where you lay on a bench under a bar stacking a bunch of plates on both sides perhaps engaging a spotter to help you stabilize the load, and so you don’t crush your own sternum, lowering the bar maybe to your chest and extending your arms. The idea was to get a huge chest, triceps and anterior deltoid. Guess what, it worked. Guys got a ton of hypertrophy in those areas. Yes, they may have had difficulty scratching their backs from just about any angle because of their anterior dominance and imbalance, hell they likely had trouble relaxing their arms by their sides, creating an ape like presence. In addition, their necks may have been sadly swallowed up by their upper trapezius.

What does the amount you can press have to do with strength? Could it be important for a football player who needs a super strong push to master the bench press? Well, no not really, unless during the game the player will have a bench or a wall behind him while he is trying to push down his opponent.

Yes the bench press does offer strength building, but it’s done in such a one sided, anterior dominated way that as your are getting your huge chest you are making yourself vulnerable to a shoulder impingement. More and more in this day and age we are closing down as we drive in our cars, type on our computers and look down at our phones. Most of us are already rounded forwards in our shoulders, we must learn to lift up in the sternum engage the middle back, rhomboids, mid traps and posterior deltoids just to get to square one. That being said chest work should be on the outs altogether.

As a trainer for over a decade I have come to favor these following chest exercises instead of the bench press for my dudes and my chicks.

Rows: As I said before we are rounded forward and if we can open up our shoulder girdle we will in turn present with a bigger chest.
Push ups: This is one of my all time favorites because it engages your core, raises your heart rate, and strengthens your pecs and triceps and shoulders. Unless you have shoulder issues this is a must for any program.
Free weight presses off the bench, fitness ball or foam roller. All of these options ask you to stabilize they weight and won’t allow your to cheat or dominate with one arm like the bar might.
Single arm standing chest flies with a cable or resistance band. This one gives major abs engagement along with working anterior deltoid and chest.

Hope this helps you get off the bench and into your full functional body.

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